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PTFA Rights Affirmed by the Arizona Court of Appeals

In Bank of New York Mellon v. De Meo, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) requires a tenant to receive an unambiguous 90-day written notice before any eviction proceeding may be commenced. In this case, Mellon Bank foreclosed on the home Patricia De Meo occupied under a rent-to-own lease agreement, which had converted into a month-to-month tenancy. Mellon Bank gave only a five-day notice, addressed to the former owner and all other occupants, but filed the eviction action 97 days later. It argued in the trial court that it satisfied the PTFA by waiting more than 90 days before filing the eviction. The trial court apparently agreed with the bank and granted the bank possession. The tenant's appeal followed.

In a unanimous published decision, the Court of Appeals reversed. The court first rejected the bank's position that the PTFA may be satisfied by serving a short notice, as long as 90 days had elapsed before an eviction is filed. The court held that the PTFA, by its express terms, "requires that a successor property owner provide a bona fide month-to-month tenant with a 90-day notice to vacate before terminating the tenancy, and the 90-day period must be completed before the notice’s effective date." "Obviously, a five-day notice, even when followed by an unannounced 90-day delay, is at best misleading," the court explained.

The court then proceeded to reject bank's argument that the PTFA notice may be oral, holding that "such an interpretation would be contrary to the express language of the law."

Much of the opinion tracked arguments raised in the amicus briefs filed by a coalition of legal services organizations and law professors in support of Ms. De Meo, who represented herself pro se. Briefs for amici, led by the National Housing Law Project and represented by Jeffrey Kastner at Community Legal Services, can be found at http://nhlp.org/node/1265.

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